EMC overhauls network-attached storage line

EMC Corp. has overhauled its Celerra unified storage system by doubling the capacity of the three models, adding the ability to use flash-based solid state hard drives and tossing in free software capabilities.

The new models available early in March are the NS-120, NS-480 and NS-960, which in capacity range from 32TB to 760TB depending on the number of blades in each unit. They replace the NS-20/40/80 series.

Thanks to the addition of high-speed flash drives, which before had been limited to EMC’s Symmetrix and Clariion systems, managers have the flexibility to mix low-cost high capacity SATA storage with faster Fibre Channel, iSCSI and solid-state drives in one array.




“Within a single box you can accommodate your most demanding applications from a performance standpoint, as well as your most demanding applications from a capacity standpoint,” said Peter Thayer, EMC’s director of storage marketing.

In addition to being fast, enterprise solid-state drives use less power than other drives, an appealing feature these days.

Using flash drives for only for applications that need the highest performance cut down the overall number of drives.

“This would allow customers to tune their systems,” Thayer said.

Introduced about a year ago by several manufacturers on their highest-end systems, the tumbling cost of memory has allowed a similar drop in solid state drives. Thayer estimated the cost has dropped 50 per cent over the past 12 months, which obviously has sparked interest in manager of mid-sized organizations with large databases or transactional applications.

“We have actually been surprised at the demand,” said Thayer.

However, he believes the biggest improvements in the NS line is the added software from the Clariion CX-4 line that includes data deduplication with compression – which EMC says could reduce storage capacity needs by up to 50 per cent, depending on the type of data.

In addition, the file-level retention (FLR)for archiving capability has been improved from basic level to SEC-compliant, for organizations that need to meet stringent regulatory requirements.

Finally, the management software now includes plug ins for VMware Site Recovery Manager automated failback, which also automates reverse replication to an original virtual infrastructure, and integration with VMware View Storage, which helps administrators provision virtual desktops.

These software upgrades impressed Terri McClure, an analyst who specializes in network attached and IP storage at the Enterprise Storage Group.

It’s another example of how EMC integrates technologies it gains from acquisitions into its products, she said.

As for solid-state drives, while only 16 per cent of organizations surveyed are buying them, ESG research shows that 60 per cent are interested in the technology.

Unified storage systems, which can use NAS, MPFS (Celerra Multipath File System0, iSCSI and Fibre Channel SAN protocols, are increasingly popular, she noted. A recent survey of some 338 organizations showed that two-thirds of respondents are planning or implementing such systems.

The leader among competitors has been Network Appliance’s FAS series, McClure said. “EMC’s inhibitor for a number of years was its complexity,” she said, “but the company has done a really good job over the past couple of years making [the NS line] quick to set up and easier to use.”

“EMC has some good momentum in the NAS space,” she said, “and I think this (announcement) will keep it rolling.” Prices for the NS-120 start at about US$37,000 for a basic system with 1.8TB of capacity.

The NS-120 can have up to two blades and scales to 120 drives, the NS-480 can hold either two or four blades and up to 192 TB of storage in 480 drives, while the NS-960 can use from two to eight blades and up to 960 drives. The latter two models can also take advantage of advanced clustering.

Also new is the NS-G8 Gateway, which enables an NS-series array to connect to a storage area network through a Clariion or Symmetrix storage system.
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